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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Benjamin Zephaniah, British icon of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism, dead at 65



Benjamin Zephaniah, a British writer, poet, and actor, passed away today at the age of 65. He was known for his strong political and social messages in his poetry and novels, which often dealt with issues of race, class, and identity.


He was also an outspoken advocate for social justice and human rights, and he supported the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement.


Benjamin Zephaniah declined an Order of the British Empire appointment from the Queen in 2003, citing his opposition to the policies and principles of the British government and monarchy, as well as the legacy of colonialism . He was quoted as saying, “I get angry when I hear that word ‘empire’; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds me of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised."


He added: "My obsession is about the future and the political rights of all people. Benjamin Zephaniah OBE - no way Mr Blair, no way Mrs Queen. I am profoundly anti-Empire." He also expressed his belief that the OBE was used to “divide and rule” the black community.


His contributions to literature and activism were recognized with numerous awards and honors. He will be remembered as a true icon of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism.

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